Central Michigan University Graduate Inspired By Brother To Study Spinal Cord Injuries

A Central Michigan University graduate student is working to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. And he has a very good reason for his work.

Andrew Stewart has been studying the treatment of spinal cord injuries through stem cell therapy for five years.

His inspiration is his own brother’s spinal injury.

Andrew’s brother David was paralyzed years ago when he fell off a three story balcony.

Seeing what his brother went through inspired him to study spinal cord injuries.

“It was devastating, I think anytime you have to watch someone you love get their entire life get turned upside down, it’s not just the movement and the sensation that is lost, it’s an entire life adjustment,” says Stewart.

Andrew’s brother David is paralyzed from the sternum down.

“For me the fact that there was nothing the medical field could do was insulting and that’s what moved me to want to purse academics, that’s what made me want to find a cure for spinal cord injuries,” says Stewart.

Over the last five years Andrew has been working to do just that.

“I’m working on stem cell therapy for spinal cord injuries and more specially we’re looking at genetic engineering approaches to make these stem cell therapies better right now. It starts with the molecular work where we identify proteins that could be potentially therapeutic in the spinal cord,” says Stewart.

Andrew is working on this using animals.

“The goal for this research right now is to hopefully find other therapeutic effects that enhance the stem cell therapy field so that way we can come up with some kind of a treatment to function with people who have spinal cord injuries,” says Stewart.

For Andrew’s professors, it’s been inspiring to watch his work.

“It was good to see him progressing because he learns and we learn with him,” says Dr. Julien Rossignol, professor at CMU.

Stewart added, “I would hope he would be proud.”

Andrew is finishing up grad school in May but plans to continue studying spinal cord injuries.